Monday, October 1, 2012

Goat Panic and Wonderful Bread

Tuesday morning dawned bright and clear dark as night.  As the days shorten, my mornings require the light attached to my ball cap in order to be able to get around outside and get the critters cared for.  Often on mornings like this the goats are quite happy in their barn and aren't eager and cooperative about going outside.  Rainy days are worse.  Those days, I often have to pull some of them out of the barn.

So it wasn't unusual when I opened the door and walked into the dark barn that Lily, the black LaMancha, was lying down, sleeping.  I thought it was an odd location and she was in an odd position, but I know I sleep strangely sometimes, so I shouldn't be surprised goats do, too.  I decided to let her snooze as long as she wanted to while I put leashes on the other four goats first.  I kept glancing at her, watching for her to stir and get up.  She didn't.  I started getting worried.  There was a lot of ruckus in the barn, with the other goats tromping around and Salsa re-establishing her authority by pushing and butting the other goats around.

Finally, I couldn't put it off any longer.  Lily hadn't budged.  With a worried and hesitant tone in my voice, trying to sound a little confident as I started to walk toward her, imagining the worst, I said, "Hey, Lily, time to get up, girl."


Lily immediately lifted her head upon hearing her name, looked at me, and slowly stood up, stretching.  I felt like I'd been confronting a teenager who just wants to snooze just a little bit longer...  She punked me!  With a sigh of relief, I clipped the leash to her collar and gave her some extra scritches and scratches in all her best itchy places.  I let everyone out of the barn, relieved that I could still plan to breed her this fall.  Salsa's milk production is still good at 1/2 gallon a day, but she is visibly drying up and it's time to give another goat or two a shot at being milkers.


I had what was turning into a long section of this post devoted to The Day I Slept Through Two Alarms.  Upon rereading it, I realized that it is really not that interesting to anyone else and I was bored reading it myself. Of note, the kids were only 10 minutes late and I got the tardies (four carpool kids) excused for them, and She Who Does Not Run or Jump (Me) ran.  'Nuff said.

So let's talk about Food, shall we?

Now that I am working full time again, my cooking exploits are jammed into every spare moment of the weekend, and I am frustrated because there's not enough time for all I want/need to do.  I am contemplating asking for a four-day work week, though not expecting any type of positive response to that.  Besides, with the pay being so low I'm not sure I could make it worthwhile ... though it is coming up on holiday season and I could ramp up soap making ...  Ah, to think of for another day.

I've been learning how to can pickles, both sweet and garlic/dill now.  I am a salsa and tomato soup making machine.  If you want to know about the Best Tomato Soup Ever, let me know and I'll write all about it and share the recipe.  I am spoiled by my homemade soup now and doubt I'll ever willingly go back to store-bought, ever.

I discovered that focaccia is really easy to make using a bread machine.  Super simple.  The problem with my homemade focaccia is that it is rather delicate and doesn't hold up well for sandwiches.  It makes a great base for my arugula and parmesan bruschetta, but BLTs, no.

Bex and I love to go to the Windsor Farmer's Market on Sunday mornings.  We have fallen in love with Mama Tina's new meatballs and sauce that she sells by the twos in a little pouch.  I can easily warm those up and slice them onto ciabatta rolls from the baker at the farmers market, topped with mozzarella cheese, for an easy and filling dinner.  I was contemplating that this weekend.  I doubt I could beat Mama Tina's meatballs, especially since she just won Double Gold at the Harvest Fair for them, but ciabatta bread.  Now that's another story.

I decided to try a bread machine recipe and see how it worked out.  The recipe said that the dough would be "sticky" and not to try to add flour to it.  As I looked at the dough after the bread machine was done with it, practically sloshing it around in the pan, I muttered to myself, "Sticky?  More like soupy!"  With some apprehension, I poured the dough/batter onto a floured cutting board, scooped the edges up as much as I could so it would fit under the largest mixing bowl I own, and set the timer, hoping that it wouldn't ooze out like The Blob all over the kitchen.  After 15 minutes was up, I gingerly removed the bowl and was relieved that it pretty much stayed together.  Despite flouring the sharpest knife I have, the dough still stuck to the knife and did not seem at all to want to be separated into two pieces.  I forced the issue and then transferred the halves to two floured pans to rest and rise for another 45 minutes.

Resting time after dough prep for the focaccia is just long enough to preheat the oven, about 15-20 minutes.  There's the extra time for the ciabatta.

I popped the risen dough into the oven for 25 minutes (25-30 is what the recipe calls for) and it was a little darker than I wanted it to be when I took it out, so I'll go for 20 next time.

What I received for my efforts were two good-sized beautiful rustic loaves of golden bread, crispy on the outside and light and perfect on the inside.  They were crispy enough without me bothering to spritz water on them every 5-10 minutes while they baked (I'm all about making it as simple as possible - why bother?).  I made a sandwich with part of the cooled loaf and discovered that it not only tasted good, but it held up very, very well.  I have a winner.

Sorry focaccia, you will be made for special occasions for the bruschetta, but ciabatta is my new go-to weekend bread making buddy, stickiness and all.

If you'd like to try your hand at ciabatta, the recipe is at and below.  (P.S. I did not "dimple" the bread.  Unnecessary for ciabatta.)  Enjoy!

Ciabatta Bread

Servings: 24
Submitted By: Marina    

"This is a bread machine version of the Italian classic which still bakes in your oven. Though not sour, this bread has the crisp crust and coarse crumb one expects from ciabatta."

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 1/4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast


1.     Place ingredients into the pan of the bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer. Select the Dough cycle, and Start.

2.     Dough will be quite sticky and wet once cycle is completed, resist the temptation to add more flour. Place dough on a lightly floured board, cover with a large bowl, and let rest for 15 minutes.

3.     Lightly flour or use parchment lined baking sheets. Divide into 2 pieces, and form each into a 3x14 inch oval. Place loaves on prepared sheets, dimple surface, and lightly flour. Cover, and let rise in a draft free place for approximately 45 minutes.

4.     Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

5.     Dimple dough for a second time, and then place loaves in the oven, positioned on the middle rack. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. During baking, spritz loaves with water every 5 to 10 minutes for a crispier crust.

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